This started as a one-year grant (2005-2006) from the Watson Foundation: "Contemporary Clown Circuit; Performance Across Borders" was the name of my project.
The blog posts are email updates from my watson year and beyond.
Friday, December 30, 2011
Ubla Dubla Trubla at Out the Box Festival (Cape Town, South Africa, 2011)
This is my 3rd time going to South Africa. As the plane approaches Cape Town, I try to travel back in time. Visions of bus stations, airports, minibus taxi rides...always comings and goings...often my arriving before or after...on my own. But this time I am part of a family. (And a show, Ubla Dubla Trubla, which is a creation of our ensemble theater company Crache Larmes) My experience of South Africa sets me apart. But still I am within. 1 of 3. We are going there together, staying and working together, leaving together. 3. Variable, but such a solid number.
People are so welcoming and generous. We stay with a family in Muizenburg, by the beach, for a few days. A 9 year old german boy lends us his binoculars to look at 2 whales. We watch a seal surf. We follow it walking along the beach as it swims down the coast. Then it is time to rehearse. We rehearse on the beach facing the surf but we are so immersed in our own water world we don't even see the sun set over the sea. Stunning pink skies and we don't even see them. The timing takes all. We sharpen our slapstick. Our glass jar tower. The ending. I'm afraid of over rehearsing. The sand is so different than the ground we're used to performing on. I jump smack on to the tower that I'm supposed to jump over. Whoops.
We spend much of our preparation time negotiating the ground of our performance spaces. What were we thinking creating a show with glass jars anyway ?!?! I feel like an overly cautious American girl afraid of setting a dangerous bad example by playing with glass jars on a hard surface. But also it really is dangerous. We need to perform on soft surfaces and the glass jars are a good, if drastic, barometer. We can't get used to them or take them for granted. The lesson I learn over and over these days is to experience the show in the present. To not take anything for granted when I'm performing. To let each scripted moment live rather than rushing through to the next one. Everything is a discovery.
I am learning with this show that I have to be with my partners, with the objects on stage, with the audience, and with my character. And I have to be with all of them all the time. And in all that, I guess, my self can be in suspension between all those anchors.
Our first show opens the Out the Box festival; we perform our first show to about 200 people at the end of a giant puppet parade. We are part of the festival's community hub in Observatory; the only outdoor show in the festival; part of their effort to bring the festival to the community and to bring new community members to the festival. The next day we do a show for a small audience in a community playground and another on the town green across from the Sunday « holistic fair ». The day after several school classes come to see our show. We do a question and answer session, "What do Ubla, Dubla, Trubla mean ?" "Does Trubla mean spit ?" "How come Trubla is the coolest ?"(what?!?!?) "How do you do that spin on your hands ?" "Why is Ubla wearing makeup like a girl ?" "How come you guys are crazy ?" "How come....you guys are funny." One fourteen year old fan tells us : "Your show is so dreamy and sureal. I loved the wave, I could just, like, see it. "
Simultaneously to our preparation for the Out the Box festival we have been in touch with an organization in Masiphumelele that Clowns Without Borders – South Africa spent a day with on a tour last year. Masiphumelele is a township with low crime rates and a beautiful library. Riding the train and minibus taxi the 1hr+ trip to get there, I feel the class distance from the downtown festival spaces, the nice house by the beach we are staying in, our paris neighborhoods. And yet compared to communities I had visited in on my last two trips to South Africa, this township feels middle class to me.
We organize a performance at a nursery school in Masiphumelele. We go there the next day and just as we arrive, it starts raining. What were we thinking creating a show where we spit and throw water on the ground and need to perform outdoors?!?! We postpone the show til after the festival finishes and plan on teaching workshops which we can do outside or inside.
The day that we teach the workshops is our first time team teaching together. It is really fluid and fun. We do silling warmup games and object manipulation, making found object puppets that kids manipulate together in small groups. Our central theme is underwater animals, which coincidently turns out to be the current theme in the kids' classroom. A few months ago they went on a class trip to the aquarium and in a few days they will be going to the natural history museum. These 4 to 6 year olds transform our every day objects into dolphins and octopus, proposing underwater animals we hadn't thought of. Their teachers translate and participate in the exercises.
(On my last 2 trips to South Africa in 2005 and 2006 I had performed in so many different schools, in different regions, in the city and countryside, and along different class and race lines. This one school that we taught at this time struck me as an interesting middleground amongst the extremes of South Africa... a public school in a township on the edge of Cape Town, but one where kids have access to museum and aquarium visits as well as visiting clown teaching artists).
After our morning of workshops we organized to return at the end of the week to perform our show in the park next to the community library....when the performance day came....wouldn't you know more rain. We were very dissapointed and felt completely beholden to the shifting Cape Town weather.
But it was so fun to see Tristan having fun leading the underwater animals. And to see Linda so confident teaching. And neat for me to feel relaxed and totally trusting these fellow teachers. I have done many trips with many awesome, talented people, yet this is the first time that the team really feels like a family. That we are Linda, Tristan, Selena, but we are also Ubla Dubla Trubla. We each have strikingly different personalities but we also can work as an organism or as a distinct species with a shared unique language. It is the magic of 3 entities adding up to more than just 3. On stage. But also when we cook or make planning decisions. When we find our way around town and entertain each other. When we analyze our performances and workshops. And when we make fun of each other there is lots of caring for each other under it all.